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Sahelanthropus tchadensis

From Academic Kids

Toumaļ
Conservation status: Fossil
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Primates
Family:Hominidae
Genus:Sahelanthropus
Species:S. tchadensis
Binomial name
Sahelanthropus tchadensis

Sahelanthropus tchadensis is an early fossil hominid, approximately 7 million years old from the Miocene. The fossils found, a cranium, two pieces of jaw, and some teeth, make up a head that has a mixture of human and chimpanzee features. The braincase suggests a chimpanzee, but the teeth are closer to those of humans, and the face includes brow ridges, a human feature not found on any living great ape. The point at the back of the skull where the neck muscles attach (mastoid process) suggests that this species walked upright.

The discoverers claim that S. tchadensis is the oldest known human ancestor after the split of our line from that of chimpanzees. The bones were found in Chad, far from most previous hominid fossil finds, i.e. eastern and southern Africa. However, an australopithecine mandible was found in Chad by Sahelanthropus' discoverers in 1993.

The fossil skull, nicknamed "Toumaļ" ("hope of life" in the local Goran language of Chad), may be a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, though unlikely to be the most recent common ancestor, as evidence from the molecular clocks suggest humans and chimps diverged 1-2 million years after S. tchadensis (5mya).

This find complicates the picture of the human family tree. In particular, if Toumaļ is a direct human ancestor, his facial features bring the status of Australopithecus into doubt.

Another possibility is that Toumaļ is related to humans and chimpanzees, but the ancestor of neither. Brigitte Senut, the discoverer of Orrorin claims that the features of S. tchadensis are consistent with a female proto-gorilla. Even if Senut's claims are true the find would still be significant; there have been no chimp/bonobo or gorilla ancestors to be found anywhere in Africa and light would be shed on their family trees.

See also

Reference

  • Nature, The look of Toumaļ, 7 April 2005, pp. 752-755, ISSN 00280836

External link

fr:Sahelanthropus tchadensis it:Sahelanthropus tchadensis

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